Major conservation legislation has cleared Congress with the support of Iowa US. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans, and Democratic U.S. Reps. Abby Finkenauer, Dave Loebsack and Cindy Axne. It’s a welcome and notable bipartisan achievement in our sharply divided and partisan times.
The Great American Outdoors Act passed The Senate 73-25 and the House 310-70. President Donald Trump has said he would sign the legislation, which permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million annually. The money comes from oil and gas royalties.
The bill provides a guaranteed funding stream for the development and upkeep outdoor recreation and wildlife areas as well resources to protect endangered species and environmentally sensitive forests. National Parks also would get $1.9 billion annually for the next five years to address a $12 billion backlog of needed repairs.
“Enacting this historic law will protect treasured spaces treasured spaces and places in every state in the nation for people of all ages to enjoy for years to come,” Grassley said in a news release.
In Iowa, according to Grassley, money for national park repairs will provide funding for federal attractions and wildlife areas in Iowa. The Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch has $3.2 million in deferred maintenance needs and the Effigy Mounds National Monument near Harpers Ferry has $2.3 million.
National Wildlife Areas in Iowa, including the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge near Elkader and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge stretching through six Eastern Iowa counties are among the areas that could tap funds.
Outdoor recreation in Iowa, according to Grassley’s statement, generates $8.7 billion in economic activity while supporting 83,000 jobs. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many Iowans distancing from indoor gatherings have discovered or rediscovered the state’s outdoor recreation areas.
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“When I sign it into law it will be HISTORIC for our beautiful public lands,” Trump tweeted back in March in support of the bill. It’s a welcome reversal after his original budget called for a 97 percent cut in Land and Water Conservation Fund budget.
The Great American Outdoors Act is fresh evidence that Congress can still come together to accomplish far-reaching legislation with bipartisan support, even amid the partisan warfare of an election year. We hope it’s a trend, not an anomaly.
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